EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers stormed out to an early lead courtesy of two goals by Benoit Pouliot and a red hot power play, eventually coasting to a 4-1 win over Toronto.
“It was a nice win for our hockey team,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “I thought in the first period we came out really strong, we were sharp. It was everything I wanted to have happen, and we capitalized on some opportunities.”
A group of Leafs fans in attendance began a “go Leafs go” chant shortly after opening puck drop. Pouliot silenced the Leafs supporters quickly when he zipped a shot over the shoulder of Jonathan Bernier 53 seconds into the game. Jordan Eberle stretched his point streak to five games with an assist. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also recorded a helper.
“It was huge,” Pouliot said of the fast start. “Most of our games this year, we haven’t started that way. It’s usually on the other side. They start that way and we can never claw back in the game. Right away, off the bat, we knew what we had to do and we took control of the game right away.”
Eberle made it 2-0 at 7:16 of the first period, scoring on the power play. Justin Schultz and Nugent-Hopkins recorded the assists. Eberle’s snipe past Bernier was his fourth goal in his last five games.
The Oilers first-period offensive rampage continued when Pouliot scored his second of the game at 8:08. Pouliot hammered a slap shot, all alone on the wing and it sizzled in past the goaltender. Nail Yakupov added an assist and Keith Aulie recorded his first point as an Oiler with the second helper.
With that score, Pouliot matched a career high, previously set with Boston in 2011-12, with his 16th on the season. What’s more impressive is Pouliot did so having previously missed 24 games this season due to injury.
Bernier was pulled in favour for James Reimer after that goal.
It didn’t take long for the Oilers to get to Reimer. Edmonton surged out to a 4-0 lead at 10:59 when Anton Lander took a pass at the side of the net and buried the chance for the Oilers second power play goal of the game. Teddy Purcell and Eberle had the two assists, giving Eberle three points in the game’s first 11 minutes.
“Right now, I think we’ve got a lot of confidence out there,” Eberle said of the Oilers power play. “I think we feel like every time we’re out there we’re going to score and I think when you get that feeling and you’re working together as a unit, and the puck goes in, it’s just a recipe for success I guess.”
With that goal, the Oilers had scored 10 times in their last 19 attempts on the man advantage (52.6%). It was the Oilers seventh power play goal in their last six periods, exiting the first tonight. They'd finish 2 for 6 for the night.
“I think the guys are just feeling comfortable with the chemistry they have,” Nelson said. “Sometimes if they don’t see where somebody is, they know they’re going to be there. These two units have been together quite a while. They’re just feeling real comfortable. They’re doing the right things, they’re shooting the puck more and I think we’re winning more draws in the offensive zone so we don’t have to break the puck out. So it’s a combination of everything. We’ve always had pretty good looks, even when our power play was struggling a little bit. We were having good looks, we just weren’t finishing and now we’re starting to finish.”
The Leafs got some power-play luck of their own with Lander in the box, making it 4-1. Toronto Captain Dion Phaneuf sent a shot towards Ben Scrivens that was deflected out in front and in by James van Riemsdyk at 13:27 of the first. In addition to Phaneuf, Phil Kessel got on the score sheet with an assist.
Halfway through the second period, Scrivens made a save at the post, despite the Leafs whacking at the puck, to keep the home team on top by three. He repeated that feat less than a minute later.
On the other end of the ice, Reimer robbed Derek Roy with 6:41 remaining in the second, diving to the post to take away a big scoring chance.
It was a scary moment for the Oilers 11 minutes into the third period when Nazem Kadri clipped the head of Matt Fraser, knocking the Edmonton winger out of the game.
“He just kind of bent over a little bit and I felt like I kind of just tried to squeeze by him there,” Kadri said. “Then again, things happen quick. Obviously, I didn’t mean to hurt him. I don’t consider myself a dirty player. I felt like my hands were down, but I haven’t really seen it up close and personal yet. Like I said, it happens fast but you hate to see a guy be taken off like that.”
There was no update on Fraser after the game.
Scrivens finished the game with 28 saves as the Oilers skated away with a decisive 4-1 win.